Former Purdue Pharma Exec May Profit From Opioid Addiction Drug

By Victoria Kim 09/11/18

Richard Sackler's involvement with a new formulation of buprenorphine has drawn a wave of criticism. 


A new formulation of buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid addiction, is due to hit the market—but some have taken issue with one of the inventors' ties to Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin.

Richard Sackler is listed as one of six inventors on a patent for a new formulation of buprenorphine issued in January, the Financial Times reported. Sackler is also the former chairman and president of Purdue Pharma, according to the Washington Post, and the son of Raymond Sackler, one of the company’s founders.

Purdue Pharma is the target of more than 1,000 lawsuits from cities, states, counties and tribes across the United States. The pharmaceutical giant and maker of OxyContin is accused of exaggerating the benefits and downplaying the risk of the opioid painkiller, and fueling the national opioid addiction epidemic.

“It’s reprehensible what Purdue Pharma has done to our public health,” says Luke Nasta, director of Camelot, a New York-based treatment center. The Sacklers “shouldn’t be allowed to peddle any more synthetic opiates—and that includes opioid substitutes.”

According to the patent, unlike the tablet or film formulation that’s currently available, the new drug will come in a fast-dissolving wafer that is placed under the tongue.

According to the inventors, the fast-dissolving formula will make it less likely for the drug to be abused and sold on the black market.

Colorado recently added to the mounting lawsuits against Purdue Pharma—accusing the company of playing a “significant role in causing the opioid epidemic.”

“Purdue’s habit-forming medications coupled with their reckless marketing have robbed children of their parents, families of their sons and daughters, and destroyed the lives of our friends, neighbors, and co-workers,” said state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman in a statement. “While no amount of money can bring back our loved ones, it can compensate for the enormous costs brought about by Purdue’s intentional misconduct.”

Members of the otherwise little known Sackler family have come to light for their ties to Purdue Pharma.

This past March, a group of about 50 people came together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to protest members of the Sackler family’s alleged involvement in perpetuating opioid abuse. Led by artist Nan Goldin, the protestors threw pill bottles marked “OxyContin” into the reflecting pool in the Sackler Wing of the museum, named for the family’s contributions to the museum.

The family has donated millions of dollars to arts institutions like the Met over the years.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr